tv This Week in Defense CBS July 24, 2011 11:00am-11:30am EDT
welcome to "this week in defense news." i'm vago muradian. what do defense budget trends over the past decade tell us about where future defense spending cuts should be made? we'll talk to one of the nation's top budget analysts later in the show. but, first the national reconnisance office is among the most secretive agents in the u.s. government, charged with developing, launching and running america's vast networks of optical radar and electronic spy satellites. this year n.r.o. celebrates its 50th anniversary. it was once so secret that for the first 30 years it didn't even officially exist. during its history n.r.o. has pioneered new generations of new reconnisance satellites and technologies that gave the united states a unique strategic ability to see and hear what its potential enemies were doing. but the agency also has been criticized for being over budget
and behind schedule for high-profile programs. here to talk about what's been learned from past failures, a decade of war and what's next for the agency is n.r.o. director bruce carlson, a retired four-star general who used to head the air force's acquisition program. general carlson, welcome to the show. >> thank you for having me. >> where i want to start off is how the wars in iraq and afghanistan changed the way you guys do business. the wars have highlighted the need for persistent surveillance. that's something you guys have been involved in obviously in the space level. there's been a huge investment on unmanned vehicles on the air-breathing side to try to give a more persistent picture of what's going on on battlefields. how's that changed how you guys operate, how you guys work with the u.a.v. forces in order to get that best information to the troops in the field? >> vago, that's a great question. we've had to evolve tremendously over the last few years and we've evolve inside a way that helps the war fighter. let me just give you two examples that i think portray
that. first geolocation of emitters and by that i mean phones, push-to-talk radios, whatever you want to talk about. when we combine ourselves with the persistent overhead airborn assets, we can do geo location of those emitters very, very quickly and usually those emitters are targets. >> right. >> second i.e. d.s. as you know, it's a tremendous problem. we do a great deal from space to locate them, identify them before they detonate. those are the ones you don't hear about. but we also do forensics afterwards. and so i think we're being helpful in about the most critical ways we can be right now. >> and it's also driven quite a change in your guys culture, hadn't it? ordinarily the imagery and the information you guys would collect would be national levels that would go to the president and to the national security council and to the top leadership of the pentagon, not
be shared with the guys in the field. >> you're right. that changed probably during the first gulf war when tactical commanders became aware that national level imagery existed and began to realize how valuable it was. and then when we combine that with gps precision, we are the big enabler for precision targeting these days. >> n.r.o. was born of the air force and the cia back in 1961, and defense secretary gates became frustrated of what he saw to be an outdated charter a couple of years ago. what did he mean by that and what are some of the changes you guys are making in sort of the fundamental charter of the organization? >> well, as you know, the change from cia and air force to dni and sec-def meant the charter was simply not valid anymore. we spent about the first year that i was in that job working on that charter. it was determined that charter was no longer the right word, it's called memorandum of
agreement, it was signed by the secretary and the director of national intelligence last september. it gives me all the authority i need to manage my programs, provides authority for me to be the principal adviser to the secretary and the d.n.i. on overhead reconnisance and i'm very, very happy with it. >> and it solves some of the organizational and turf issues that existed throughout your history. >> it did. >> let me go to talk to you a little bit about failures from which you guys have learned lessons. there was -- you have a huge track record of success on programs, but there are those who also say that a lot of those successes happened when you guys were a completely classified organization and there was not a lot of transparency as to what was going on. but certainly in the last two decades there has been a little bit of criticism and that amounted a decade ago on the imagery architecture program that was to replace the large rekog glans satellites with the more and network set of smaller spacecraft that were supposed to give better coverage.
that program was effectively ended up being canceled after budgets and delays and a whole bunch of stuff. and then the space infrared system to replace a new generation of missile launch detection spacecraft has also been behind schedule and over cost. what are some of the key lessons learned from these two expensive failures some would say or certainly problems with them that are going to help shape you for the future? >> first just to set the record straight, the n.r.o. has the best track record in the department of defense or intelligence community for success in managing programs. but when we failed, we seemed to fail big and that was certainly one of those failures. of course we've taken that apart down to the very minutest part of its anatomy. we know what happened. it was a time when we decided to turn everything over to the contractor, we didn't manage programs, we were content with oversight and insight, and that
doesn't lead to great discipline on programs. we established requirements, we know what our budget is and we know what's required of us in terms of time. and we go manage a program to that set of criteria. i will tell you that just recently in one of our major programs which was estimated to take us seven years and cost $5 1/2 billion, we returned over $2 billion to the intelligence community and did that program in five years and six months. -- five years and six weeks. it was six weeks over what we estimated five years ago. so we know how to manage programs. the secret is not lost, it's just a matter of executing. >> what is going to be the system that replaces fia at this point? >> i hope we don't replace, we're going to do a lot better than that. three years ago the intelligence community and the department decided to do an evaluation of all of the available
constellation types, over 70 of them. that evaluation was done and it was determined that the next generation electrical optical system was going to be the program we're executing today. >> right. >> and it's an evolutionary program, in other words, i'm going to take the systems that i know how to produce and then put my money in the front end of the system and telescope and in the sensors. >> right. there are those who say that you guys historically have done large satellites, but there are those who say it's actually time to develop tactical satellites, things that are much, much smaller, less expensive, more rapidly fielded and can give you almost as much bang for the buck, what's your view on that? is there room for those kind of satellites in the arsenal? >> there is. we launch those kind of satellites. in our recent very successful launch campaign where we launched seven satellites in six months -- >> the greatest rate that you have had in 25 years. >> the most aggressive in 25
years, you're absolutely right. we launched a small satellite and that satellite we built in 24 months for $20 million. now, i realize that's a lot of money to you and me, but in the satellite business, that's almost record setting. and we know how to do that, we use those kind of technologies, we use small satellites to demonstrate high-level technologies, we use them to test out concepts of operations and so we know how to do that too. we haven't lost the recipe there. >> up next more with bruce carlson, the director of the verizon claims its 4g lte is twice as fast as at&t. we're putting them to the test against the speed of a rescue unit. go ! they're downloading a music album. the first network to finish gets rescued. does your phone know that we're racing ? done ! verizon's done ! i've got seven left !
we're back with bruce carlson, the director of the national reconnisance office. sir, i'd like to ask you a little bit about commercial launch and how you get your payloads into orbit. obviously the obama administration, the space shuttle program ended last week and the administration has put a lot of focus in commercializing space launch as much as possible to spur innovation and drive down costs. what role is there for commercial launch providers in lofting our payloads into space? >> we're provisioning now for new entrance into the space launch program. i already launched and have launched off of space x and i have contract with orbital. so we're doing that whenever we can. it's up to them now to qualify themselves -- >> in terms of reliability. >> that's correct, in terms of their ability to predictably launch a very high-priced payload >> that's right and not have a mishap, although in the past we've seen very proven the space launch business is always a
richky one because even proven rockets sometimes fail. we've long operated under the assumption that most of what we launch into space is largely safe, but china has been one country that's been really testing the boundaries of what can be done with lasers, what can be done with jamming, what can be done by launching payloads into intersecting orbits with some of our spacecraft we've had questions about, as well as launching rockets from the earth in order to destroy satellites in orbit. what are we doing to improve both our space awareness of what's exactly up there in orbit and what we can do to protect the spacecraft we do have up in orbit or we are going to be launching to orbit? >> we work very closely with the air force. we have established a joint space protection program in fact. and my part of that is not the anti-satellite or the awareness. my part is to gather the intelligence from the space environment. and working with space command, we make sure that we have as much intelligence about what's
going on up there all the time. we also work with our other mission partners, the other services to make sure that they're aware of those things. we've established concepts of operations that make our satellites less predictable than they were before and we try to make each of them a sensor so that they can assist us in establishing what's happening up there. >> we've also had programs that experimented with being able to go and look around a little bit more than we've been able to up in space when we've had a question. are we advancing the state of the art in that or as opposed to having a spacecraft does it make more sense to have the spacecraft themselves more situationally aware. >> let me just say that we're being very, very aggressive in space protection, trying to make sure that all of our spacecraft are survivable as they can be. i'd like to say more about that -- >> i understand that. let me take you to one of the other questions. when you said to try to make satellites less predictable.
one of the knocks of space- borne assets, one of the things is you don't need permission to overfly anybody. one of the down sides is you usually come by very briefly and oftentimes are very predictable. that's obviously something the air-breathing community has said would be an advantage to them which is the unpredictability. what can you do to make your spacecraft less predictable in terms of how they come overhead, what the intervals are and stuff? what's sort of the state of the art we're working there in order to be able to do that? >> we're governed by kipler's laws up there and those boundaries are well known by us, the chaend and -- chinese and the russians. it's a matter of how much fuel and power you want to put on board and how long you want the spacecraft to be sufficient viffable. you can't be survivable indefinitely because you essentially run out of gas. >> right. >> however, a rule of thumb is that if you move first, you win. so if we are waiting to react, there's a possibility that we'll lose. if we move ahead of someone
else, then we'll be survivable. we know those things and we're operating with that in mind. >> it returns you to eternal vigilance. let me ask you in the next minute or so that we've got left of sort of what the future holds. we've got google and a number of other earth-imaging products out there that allow everybody to get a remarkable amount of detail on what's going on on the ground. i mean, you can see ships in port and a whole bunch of other things which is sort of n.r.o. for the masses in a certain sense. how does that change your game and where is the state of the art going to be taking reconnisance in the next five to 10 years? >> i think it puts an emphasis on our ability to do extremely fine discovery. we're the ones that give cruise missiles and gps bombs that target cord nans. you have to have those targeting cord nants not just in x and y but in the zx as well. in addition to that we're the
ones who counter denial and deception. if somebody's trying to fool you, our level of imagery is the level that allows you to say, no, that's not a real airplane, so on. >> and in terms of where you think the technology is going to go, what is sort of the big breakthrough in the next five to 10 years? >> i wish i knew. that's why i've got to spend a good of my science and technology budget of experiencing a lot of things out there that i think are right for explosion into the next generation. >> i hope those looking at the next defense are preserving that kind of investment for the future. sir, thanks very much for joining us. what do defense spending trends of the
billion in defense spending which includes to cover operations in iraq and afghanistan, another $129 billion are being requested to cover veterans benefits and services. in the decade since 9/11, defense spending in real terms has almost doubled, but what do the trends over that past decade tell us about where future cuts should be made? >> join us us is todd harrison for the department of strategic. welcome back to the show. >> thank you. >> in some respects is your report already overcome by events given the debt negotiations that are going on? >> it always seems that way. but, yeah, as soon as the president came out with his f.y.2012 budget request, he came out with his own deficit proposal which calls for cutting $400 billion from defense over the next 12 years. so the landscape keeps changing day by day. >> that's right. and now there are proposals that take it up to $850. obviously the deficit reduction commission was even more
serious above $1 trillion. how much do you think is going to be cut and what are these cuts going to mean for d.o.d.? >> it's too soon to tell what kind of a deal they're going to strike. i think the $400 billion cut that the president was talking about, and, of course, that's relative to a d.o.d. baseline that was still projected to grow over the next 12 years, but a $400 billion cut from that probably seems at the low end of what we'll see. it could be as much as $800 billion. i doubt it would be much more than that. the president said he didn't think it should be much more than that. >> right. >> but i think we're looking at a decade or longer of a gradually decline in defense spending. if you look back in history and this is something i did in the report, you're comparing the president's what he comes out with each year. >> future years defense plan. >> yes. back in the last downturn at the end of the cold war, starting at the peak in f.y. '85, you see in the fifth year of the fightup, we tended to overpredict what the budget would be by over 30%. i don't think the decline will be as steep this time, but
there certainly is a precedent. >> when you look at the trends over the past decade, where do you see the opportunity to cut? >> well, one of the things i looked at was where are the sources of growth over the past decade. you know, of course, with the wars in iraq and afghanistan, about half of the growth has been in war funding. but the other half of the growth has actually been in the base defense budget. we've seen 19% of the growth was in personnel-related costs, 16% was in acquisitions, 10% was in peacetime operations and that's while we saw the total in strength of the military remained relatively flat, the operations of peacetime operations went down, we're flying few hours, fewer tank miles. if you look at our acquisitions, we've got an inventory of equipment that's actually smaller and older than it was 10 years ago. so, really, what i found is that we're spending more on our base defense budget now, but we're not getting more. >> and part of the challenge and the issue has been the d.o.d.
talks a lot about husbanding its resources well, but you've found that the programs that were canceled that didn't actually contribute to equipment was actually a staggering number. >> it is, yes. so i added up about a dozen major acquisition programs that were canceled while they were still in development, so they never fielded any equipment and it adds up to $frx billion -- $46 billion on the systems. i don't want to say it was entirely wasted. there was some technology that was developed out of it that might be used later. but for the most part it was a wasted opportunity for the department and i think the challenge now is that we have that wasted opportunity of the past decade. we're not going to get another chance like that in the coming years. >> as you said, in some respects it's a hollow monitorrization in some cases. senators levin and mccain, the leading members of the senate armed services committee have called for a joint strike fighter to be cut, the navy is considering slipping aircraft
carrier -- new carrier builds from five years to seven-year intervals which effectively reduces the number of your carriers. there are those who say, for example, the number of submarines who are two a year in order to get the best value can be reduce today one a year. what are some of the programs that are going to be cut the most vulnerable and ultimately are some of these going to end up costing us money rather than saving us money? >> i think you have to look at in terms of what's most vulnerable, it's the big ticket items. they're the ones that are easiest to actually cut and then it attracts a lot of congressional scrutiny and attention. so you have a joint strike fighter obviously is the largest program in the d.o.d. portfolio. the other ones coming up are obviously the tanker has already started, the next generation bomber, the s.s.b.n. replacement for the ohio class split missile submarines, so some of your big programs, of course the carriers that we're building, the ford class carriers. problem is, like -- the problem is, like you sawd said, if they
stretch it out buying one submarine instead of two, it actually makes it less efficient so each subends up costing more. if you still want to buy the same total number of subs, the most efficient way to do it is to buy two a year. >> before gates left, he did launch a whole series of programs, the ballistic missile submarine program and the bomber. but is there going to be enough money to pay for these things? aren't these things going to end up being cut before they get started? >> that's the challenge. a number of these new programs were funded based on projected savings from the efficiency initiative and if the past is any indicator, we won't be able to achieve all the efficiencies that we think, so that means that these programs could be vulnerable. if you look at the air force's aircraft procurement plan in particular, they're supposed to be buying the guess ef at full-rate procurement, the tank and the bomber at full rate procurement all in the 2020s. that's going to be hard to do. >> that's going to be tough. todd, thanks for joining us. coming up in my notebook some thoughts to the end of the
on the 42nd anniversary of mankind's greatest achievements, the moon landing, america ended its manned space program with the space shuttle atlantis' return from orbit. it was a particularly sad day given for the first time in america's space program nothing is coming next. last year president obama decided to retire the shuttle and canceled plans to return to the moon and go to mars, arguing that commercializing space would spur innovation and cut costs.
the shuttle was born during the moon program to make space travel routine and cheap. despite remarkable achievements, it's proven staggeringly expensive. no doubt commercial activity will spur private innovation as private industry vies for financial advantage. until commercial offerings prove reliable enough to carry humans, american astronauts will get to the international space station aboard russian rockets and those interested in returning to the moon had better learn chinese. ending shuttle without a successor is the latest blow to the world's leading space power. misguided export regulations have driven commercial satellite and space launch customers away from u.s. industry to foreign suppliers. now budget cuts are jeopardizing the vast manned space industrial complex that took america decades and billions of dollars to build as more nations than ever before set their sights on the heavens. thanks very much for joining us for "this week in defense news." i'll be back next week at the